Remember and Return

019319OK, I’ll admit it.  I’m not a fan of devotionals.  In general, the genre produces 365 days of (whatever) which usually ends up being a single verse of the Bible yanked out of context and then a paragraph or two of “encouraging thoughts” … it’s the prefect lightweight fluff for the American church.  I think devotionals are an important part of why the American church is so weak.

So when Baker Books offered me the chance to review a new devotional in exchange for an honest review, my first inclination was “no way” … but then I saw that the author was John MacArthur – a serious Bible teacher not given to “fluff.”  Curious, I accepted and have been making my way though this.

Remember & Return: Rekindling Your Love for the Savior is not your typical devotional.  It has 31 lessons instead of 365.  The typical devotion is probably 6-7 pages.  MacArthur’s style is not the normal devotional drivel.  It’s totally packed with Scripture and most chapters have an extended quote from a Puritan writer or other great voices like Martyn Lloyd-Jones or Charles Spurgeon.

The topic of the devotional, as listed on the cover, is Rekindling Your Love for the Savior, and MacArthur’s approach is pretty simple:  he simply works through what we believe about Jesus.  The approach is actually very shocking for the genre … there isn’t a lot of pandering to your emotions.  MacArthur basically is saying, “if your walk with Jesus has grown cold, what you really need is to be reminded of who he is.  When you see the Savior as revealed in Scripture, you will surely find your old love for him.”  For the person who loves devotionals, I wonder how attractive this approach will be.  Is it ‘enough’ to simply present the glories of Jesus?

My one complaint about this book is that each chapter ends with a “Daily Challenge.” That’s fine as far as it goes, but the challenges are not challenges at all.  For the most part, they have nothing for the reader to do at all.  For example, here is the “challenge” from Day 1:

Without making a concerted effort to change your direction, you’ll never deepen your relationship with Christ.  Jettison the excess baggage you’ve picked up along the way and once again give Christ first place in your life.  Don’t “be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11:3), but exercise “love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim 1:5). (p.14-15)

This isn’t an awful challenge except that MacArthur never defined what “excess baggage” looks like.  What exactly is the challenge asking the reader to do?  Most of the challenges really don’t have anything for the reader to do.

On the whole, this is a mixed bag.  There is a lot to like about this book … particularly the wealth of Bible verses …. and even the “daily challenges” are true, even if not challenging the user to do much if anything.  My guess is the type of person who likes devotionals will not like the depth of this, and most others will be distracted by the format.


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